Who’s Shopping Forged Documents to the Washington Press Corps?

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On May 9, Reality Winner, an NSA contract worker, downloaded a file that outlined details of Russian hacking efforts just before the 2016 election. On June 5, the Intercept published her file.

But something interesting happened between May and June: someone used the Winner document as the basis to create a forgery of a different top-secret document that named a specific Trump aide who had colluded with Russia. This forgery was apparently shopped around to journalists, including Rachel Maddow, who described what happened on her show last night.

So…who had access to the Winner file before it was published? Who’s peddling this stuff? Was it from a Trump opponent who meant it to be taken seriously but didn’t quite do the job well enough? Was it from a Trump supporter who hoped someone in the mainstream media would publish it and then look like a fool? Was it from someone in the intelligence community who wanted to sow seeds of doubt in news organizations that receive stolen documents? Good question! As Maddow mentioned, two other news organizations have had to retract stories recently based on problems with “sourcing.” This might be part of a concerted effort to discredit the media looking into the Trump-Russia connection.

I will say one thing, though: Maddow compared this to the fake documents that CBS published about George Bush’s National Guard service. That’s a dead end. We have a pretty good idea of where those came from, and it wasn’t some part of the deep state. It was just an idiot with a grudge against Bush.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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